We didn’t realize it when we booked this trip, but there is a huge celebration in India this week that culminates on Sunday: it’s Dawali!. This is bigger to Indians than Christmas, so it’ll be fun to see how they celebrate.
Despite the clanging and banging of doors, etc. during the night, we managed to get a reasonably good night’s sleep. We were up and out of the room at 9:00 to meet the Namaste India Tours owner, Jawahar, for breakfast. We spent about 2 hours with him going over our itinerary, made one change – taking out the 1st of 3 tiger safaris in Ranthambhore will give us a bit more time in Agra, gives us time at a bird sanctuary on the road between Agra and Ranthambhore and save us a few bucks to boot. The breakfast, which was included with the room, consisted of a tasty 1-egg omelette – could have eaten 3 of those – then we were off with our driver, Kamal, for a tour of Delhi.
In the daylight, we could see how bustling the area directly around the hotel is, with sidewalk shops and activity of just about every description going on. The Delhi traffic is unbelievable and, yes, the white lines are just a suggestion, in fact totally ignored and sometimes it really doesn’t seem to matter in which direction the traffic is going. A 3 or 4-lane street easily turns into 5 or 6 lanes and consists of anything from hand carts carrying pretty much anything, bicycles, bicycle rickshaws, scooters, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, cars right up to quite large trucks. Horn honking is encouraged….it’s incessant and happens for pretty much anything or, for that matter, apparently nothing.
The driver stopped in one area and negotiated a rate with a bicycle rickshaw guy: Rs (rupees) 300 for 2 hours. That amounts to about Cdn. $6. With both of us squeezed into the seat, away we went. Our first stop was the Red Fort. Unfortunately, for good photography, it was the wrong time of day….the sun was way up in the sky and the smog was so bad you could almost cut the air. We didn’t bother paying the fee to go in and settled for taking a couple of shots from the fence.
We piled onto the rickshaw and continued on to Chandni Chowk, a huge market area and the Jama Masjid Mosque. The activity around there was exponentially more than what we saw right around our hotel….amazing with acivity, people of all shapes and sizes, electrical power wires overhead like you wouldn’t believe, colour, smells, etc. It was really difficult to take photos from the rickshaw, but we did manage to get the driver to stop a few times. He was a great tour guide, pointing out sights with very informative 1-word descriptions like, “old building”, “flowers”, “candles”, “wires”, “goat”, “chickens”. After using up only 45 minutes or so of the 2 hour tour, we had had just about enough of that very informative tour, so we asked the our guy to take us back to the parking lot.
Kamal was waiting there for us and we continued on to the Ghandi Memorial Garden. We walked around there for a while, took a few photos and then started back to the car. We sat down on a stone bench for a few minutes to rest our feet, when a family came along and asked if they could have their photo taken with us. Other than our good looks, I’m not sure what the attraction was, but we obliged. I managed to get a good shot of one of the young mothers and her baby. People seem to be very willing to have their photos taken, including the policeman at the gate. It dawned on me after that it was kind of ironic that there would be policeman armed with automatic rifles at the Ghandi memorial.
Our next stop was at Connaught Place….certainly not Yorkdale, but it was more upscale than the area around our hotel. We had a pizza at the Adore Restaurant and then went for a look in the Canon store. On the way back to the car, I stopped to get a photo of a shoeshine guy sitting on the sidewalk. The trade-off for the photo was getting my shoes (i.e. black sandals) polished. What a hoot! He took them off my feet and had me stand on a newspaper in my bare feet while he polished them. He did a great job! The only problem is that it’s so dusty here that they’ll be back to the way they were in no time. Dass got a shot of me standing there waiting, but just my legs and bare feet beside the guy. Here’s a shot of my buddy the shoe-shine guy.
Kamal drove us back to the hotel so that we could change before driving to Dass’ ‘Indian family’s’ house. When he was here in 1978 for 6 months and again in 1982 for 3 months, he met and stayed with a family, as he was traveling around India. We met Mrs. Agarwal, her daughter Prachi, her 17 year old grandson Keshav and her 14 year old granddaughter Arushi. They served us water, tea, cookies, sweets and nuts and really wanted to prepare a dinner for us. After the long flight, the early morning and the day’s activities, not to mention falling asleep in the car on the way to their apartment, we were pretty much beat so we begged off. After a 1.5 hour visit, we returned to the hotel and called it a day.